A note on a new manuscript of ED Lu₂ A and its colophon

CDLN 2015:13

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2015-07-15

© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

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Klaus Wagensonner


Yale University

No other lexical text in the third millennium BC was handed down to us in so many copies as the so-called Standard Profession List (also Lu2 A or NAMEŠDA; henceforth EDLu-A). This word list is among the earliest representatives of lexical texts in the cuneiform record with precursors reaching back into the Uruk IV period (c. 3350-3200). In the course of the third millennium this composition was widely known throughout Mesopotamia and beyond, for manuscripts found their way to Ebla and Tell Brak in Syria as well as Susa in Iran. Together with many of the other archaic word lists it was still copied in the Old Babylonian period. In this short contribution I aim to introduce a new manuscript, which has not been considered earlier and, in particular, would like to discuss its colophon.

The third millennium sources that already contain a standardized text come from places such as Fāra, Tell Abū Salabikh, Ebla, and now also Kiš; for the last-mentioned site see Wagensonner 2014a; 2014b and Westenholz 2014: no. 14. Maybe it is due to this popularity, which triggered the emergence of adapted versions and exegetical literature in the late Early Dynastic period and beyond. Such attempts can be seen, for instance, in the so-called Ebla Sign-List (ESL), whose first half comments on sign readings occurring in EDLu-A (Archi 1987; Civil 2009: 64-66). A similar attempt to comment on EDLu-A can still be found on the Old Babylonian extract tablet Wilson 2008, 129 dealing with entries 13-19 and providing for each entry a pronunciation gloss as well as an analytical writing. However, entries of EDLu-A are also recycled in other lexical texts, such as SF 72 from Fāra, which uses several titles found in the same sequence as in the parent list adding the sign MIN or Ax. (I do not attempt here to discuss SF 72, but its interpretation as list of river and canal names is substantiated by the long tradition of naming such proper names after occupations and titles; see for a similar passage in UM 29-16-239 discussed in Taylor 2008: 205. For a different view of SF 72 see Civil 2009: 64, n. 5)

The most recent list of text witnesses to EDLu-A (Q000003) can be found either in the overview of the lexical tradition in Mesopotamia by Niek Veldhuis (Veldhuis 2014a: 63-64) or on the respective page of DCCLT. During the cataloguing and imaging mission at the Louvre Museum a new source came up, which originates from the excavations at Tellō by Ernest de Sarzéc in 1881 and therefore entered the collection quite early. The excavations during that campaign concentrated on Tell A of the site.

The seven-sided prism AO 337 (131 × 92 × 85 mm) was hitherto not recognised as a manuscript of EDLu-A. The museum number AO 337 must not be confused with the already known manuscript DP 337, which is a small school lentil probably from ED IIIb Girsu containing the first two entries of the list together with a student's copy on its reverse (Veldhuis 2014a: 66). AO 337, on the other hand, contains a whole copy of the lexical text. Prisms as scribal media for lexical texts were first introduced in the Old Akkadian period and continued to be used until the Old Babylonian period (see also Taylor 2008: 206).

This prism contains nineteen entries per column, which corresponds to a standard amount of entries per column for this lexical text from the ED IIIb period onwards. Rather revealing from this perspective is the school text Erm 15000 dating to the Old Akkadian period and probably originating from Girsu (see also Lambert 1988: 251). The first two faces of this six-sided prism contain a regular copy of EDLu-A with nineteen entries on each face. The content of the second face, however, is copied on the three subsequent faces. The sixth face contains a dedication to the goddess Nisaba and a colophon in calligraphic script. Units of nineteen entries are already confirmed by the sources at Ebla as well as by Old Babylonian copies on tablets, which introduce a double ruling after each group of nineteen entries and therefore faithfully copy source material (Wagensonner 2015a).

The entries of EDLu-A on AO 337 contain no surprises as far as they are preserved. It should be noted that copies of EDLu-A in the Old Babylonian period came down to us in various types:


The copies on prisms usually follow the traditional layout. In the case of EDLu-A both prisms and cylinders were used. The unpublished manuscript BM 30041 + BM 90096 is a quite fragmented cylinder (studied February 2015; see Taylor 2008: 206). Jon Taylor refers to YOS 1, 12 as being a cylinder (studied October 2009), but which is in fact another seven-sided prism quite similar to both, AO 337 and Cohen 2010, except for the fact that the length of its faces diverts from the afore-mentioned custom. The scribal hand on prisms usually has archaizing features. In this respect the prism AO 337 is quite similar to further examples, such as, in particular, the prism published by Mark Cohen in Fs. Abusch and which is currently in a private collection. Cohen refers, however, to a hole which runs down the center of the prism (Cohen 2010: 19). In the complex graphemes in entries 40-43 (GA2 × {inscribed grapheme} .ME) the inscribed grapheme usually occurs in the sequence DI – GAR – SAL – UD. Cohen notices that the last-mentioned three entries on his manuscript attest to the sequence UD – GAR – SAL (Cohen 2010: 20-21). The prism AO 337 also diverts from the usual sequence: the list of inscribed signs starts with a rather simplified DI and goes on with GAR – UD – SAL.

There are some further intriguing variants on AO 337, which shall be addressed here rather briefly. The variation occurs particularly in the later parts of the list. This is per se not unusual. In the group of entries of the enkudx(ZAG) official the entries containing the sign PA (82, 84 and 85) are grouped together. Entry 83 of the list occurs just after these on AO 337, preceding entry 86. Entries 121-122 are inverted as well. Entry 121 contains the complex grapheme MUŠ×MUŠ+KAK in other recensions. AO 337 on the other hand crosses the signs MUŠ and writes HI afterwards.

The intriguing feature of the prism AO 337, nevertheless, is its colophon, which is written in a rather cursive script on the prism's top side. Hence the prism has no central hole. In his overview Niek Veldhuis briefly discusses colophons on such prisms (Veldhuis 2014a: 70-71). The colophons mentioned by Veldhuis either contain the rather short dedicatory formula “(for) Nisaba” (dnisaba) or are more explicit by mentioning the scribe and – according to Veldhuis – resemble dedicatory seal inscriptions, since they are inscribed within a box. Amid its damaged areas, the colophon on the top side of AO 337 differs from the other hitherto known examples. It appears to list a higher amount of epithets for the goddess.

Fig. 1: Hand copy of the top side of AO 337

The colophon has a parallel in a royal inscription known to originate from Girsu. Douglas R. Frayne incorporated this inscription, which was hitherto only known from the fragment of a clay bowl rim in his Royal Inscriptions from Mesopotamia and assigned it to an unnamed ruler (RIME 3/ The clay bowl rim MLC 1823 is a rather unusual piece. Although there seem to be quite a few erasures in the text, the sign forms appear rather archaizing. The inscription is written on the rim's inner surface. Both this rim as well as the top side of the prism AO 337 contain the same inscription, although their final parts appear to differ quite substantially. Following is an attempt to correlate both the colophon on AO 337 (up to line 8) and this inscription:

AO 337 RIME 3/
1. d nisaba 1. dnisaba
2. munus zi munus sag10 2. munus zi
    3. munus sa6-ga
3. munus mul-mul-e 4. munus mul-mul-la
4. ki-ag̃2 an-na 5. ki-ag̃2 an-na
5. hi-li e2 kur-kur-ra 6. munus hi-li kur-kur
6. g̃eštu2(GEŠ.TUG2.PI) 7(diš) 7. munus DUR2 7(diš)
7. × 6(diš) 8. ga x 7(diš)
8. g̃eštu2 ki-ku3 9. g̃eštu3 ki-ku3

Unfortunately, the final lines of the colophon on AO 337 (lines 9-11) are badly damaged and quite a few uncertainties remain. In any case, its content does not appear to follow the text on the clay bowl rim containing two further epithets of Nisaba: “chief scribe of An, chief land recorder of Enlil.” But there are other options. Some lexical prisms contain shorter dedications to the goddess Nisaba followed by the name of the scribe. Veldhuis refers to the unpublished name list NBC 8495, whose beginning resembles lines 1-3 of the clay bowl rim, but then continues with the scribe's name, his occupation and patronym and last but not least the expression arad2-zu in-sar, “your servant wrote it” (Veldhuis 2014a: 70).

Now, however, another parallel of the long type of colophon on AO 337 can be identified. The publication history of this object in recent times is comparatively complex. The completely preserved six-sided prism NMB 78411 contains on its various faces a copy of the list AD-GI4 (previously Tribute). Similar to AO 337, its top side is inscribed with an unusually long colophon. This colophon received two rather different treatments. The prism was first presented by Daniel Arnaud, who understood this difficult part of the text as follows: “il fit tenir et voua [au seigneur] auguste, le roi des Igigi, le dragon qui frappe la haute ste[pp]e, le lion de l'univers. (Dans) le pays de Kumidu, Šarrī-El plaça pour lui dans un coin du rempart de la ville” (Arnaud 2006: 226). This curious colophon was reexamined by Bertrand Lafont in 2008 in the National Museum of Beirut, who came to a completely different solution and interpreted the text as copy of AD-GI4. However, the prism was first studied and copied by Markham Geller at a London antiquities dealer in 2001, whose copy then was passed on to Theo Krispijn, who published a separate study on this text in 2012 unaware of Lafont's earlier discussion (see also Krispijn and Lafont 2013).

The text on the top side of this prism indeed leaves many problems, since the scribal hand is rather cursive and attests to a relative inexperienced scribe (see also Krispijn 2012: 302). But it is also its state of preservation, which hampers sign identifications. Lafont proposed a new reading of lines 7-9, which are repeated here (Lafont 2008: 291):

NMB 78411
7. [x? geš]tug2(=[GIŠ].TÚG.PI) ki-ERIM
8. dub-sar-mah An-na
9. sag?-tun3 dEn-líl

In light of the new manuscript of EDLu-A and the link to the royal inscription on the clay bowl rim presented above it is quite certain that the colophon of NMB 78411 contained the same dedicatory inscription for the patron goddess of the scribes Nisaba. Miguel Civil in his latest edition and discussion of the composition AD-GI4 refers to Lafont's interpretation and states that it “invites a certain skepticism”, since lines 4-6 “seem to consist mostly of numerals” (Civil 2013: 53, note 115). These numerals are, however, part of the royal inscription containing two epithets ending in the numeral 7(diš) or Sumerian imin, which is now confirmed by AO 337. The final part of the colophon on NMB 78411 is better preserved than on AO 337. Comparing all three inscriptions, it becomes quite clear that RIME 3/ and NMB 78411 stand closer together, whereas AO 337 diverts and obviously ends in a different set of epithets:

RIME 3/ NMB 78411 AO 337
1. dnisaba 1. dnisaba 1. dnisaba
2. munus zi 2. munus zi 2. munus zi munus sag10
3. munus sa6-ga 3. [munus] sa6-ga    
4. munus mul-mul-la 4. munus mul-mul-la 3. munus mul-mul-e
5. ki-ag̃2 an-na 5. ki-[ag̃2] an-na 4. ki-ag̃2 an-na
6. munus hi-li kur-kur 6. hi-[li] e2 5. hi-li e2 kur-kur-ra
    7. kur-kur-ra    
7. munus DUR2 7(diš) 8. munus DUR2? 3+n(diš) 6. g̃eštu2(GEŠ.TUG2.PI) 7(diš)
8. ga x 7(diš) 9. munus [(×)] 7(diš) 7. × 6(diš)
9. g̃eštu3 ki-ku3 10. g̃eštu2 ki-ku3 8. g̃eštu2 ki-ku3
10. dub-sar mah 11. dub-sar mah an-na 9. × × dig̃ir?-re?-e?-ne?
11. an-na        
12. [sag]-sug5 mah 12. × × mah d+en-lil2 10. × × ZU? mah?
13. den-lil2        
    13. × × × 11. [...] × × [...]

Despite its obvious variants in the latter part it is quite intriguing to find this inscription on the top sides of two lexical prisms, one containing a copy of EDLu-A, the other a copy of AD-GI4. Both texts received great attention in the third millennium and were copied throughout Mesopotamia and beyond. Dedications to the goddess Nisaba are of course not rare. The prism BM 86271, which contains a list of personal names starting with the element nin is inscribed with the dedication dnisaba on its top side (Lambert 1988: 259).

Dating AO 337

The aforementioned clay bowl rim coming from the antiquities market with an inscription of an “Unnamed Ruler from Girsu” (RIME 3/ is dated to the Ur III period mainly based on palaeographical reasons. It is therefore included into the respective volume of the Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia (see also Selz 1989a: 494). A date for prisms such as AO 337 is generally difficult to achieve so long as there is no stratigraphic archaeological evidence. The upper part of the colophon on AO 337 shows some orthographical features, which make an Old Babylonian date more likely. A diagnostic element is, in particular, the writing of the genitive in line 3: nin mul-mul-e instead of nin mul-mul-la on the the clay bowl rim and probably the NMB 78411. Another intriguing feature is the writing munus sag10 on AO 337 instead of munus sa6-ga on the other two inscriptions.

It should be noted that on both AO 337 and NMB 78411 the colophon is aligned according to the beginning of the text on face a. The same orientation is attested on the afore-mentioned prism YOS 1, 12.

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* I would like to thank the Louvre Museum in allowing me to study AO 337. Thanks go to Mahmoud Alassi at the Louvre, who provided me with information regarding the origin of the prism in de Sarzéc's excavations at Tellō. Further thanks go to Elizabeth Payne at the Yale Babylonian collection, who kindly sent me photographs of MLC 1823.
Cite this Article
Wagensonner, Klaus. 2015. “A Note on a New Manuscript of ED Lu₂ A and Its Colophon.” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes 2015 (13). https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-13.
Wagensonner, Klaus. (2015). A note on a new manuscript of ED Lu₂ A and its colophon. Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2015(13). https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-13
Wagensonner, Klaus (2015) “A note on a new manuscript of ED Lu₂ A and its colophon,” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2015(13). Available at: https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-13 (Accessed: June 20, 2024).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2024-06-20]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Wagensonner,  Klaus},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Notes},
	issn = {1546-6566},
	number = {13},
	year = {2015},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {A note on a new manuscript of {ED} {Lu2} {A} and its colophon},
	url = {https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-13},
	volume = {2015},

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